Five principles of customer experience leadership
by Chad StorlieMr. Chad Storlie is a Retired US Army Special Forces Officer, author of two books, and has been published in over 190 publications. Chad is an adjunct Professor of Marketing at the University of Minnesota – Carlson School of Management and a mid-level marketing executive. He has an MBA from Georgetown University. Visit www.CombatToCorporate.com
Customer Experience (CX) is one of the hot business topics in all Business-to-Customer (B2C) and Business-to-Business (B2B) companies today. Companies ultimately meet and fulfill underlying needs of prospective customers and existing customers through the five “P’s” of the Marketing Mix: Product, Price, Place, Promotion, and People. The five “P’s” of the Marketing Mix work for all businesses, products, and services from industrial manufacturing equipment to a post-workout sports drink to a child daycare service.
Customer Experience is the total of the customer’s perceptions in how successful the company was in fully and successfully delivering everything from initially discovering the product through the entire research, evaluation, purchase, set up, use, repair, and re-purchase (or abandonment) process. It is vitally important that the Customer Experience evaluation is driven by the customer’s perception of what they service should be vs. a cold metric driven calculation of what the service was to the customer. In the CX world, customer perception and customer belief are king.
Customer Experience has come to the forefront in nearly every industry as companies seek to differentiate how they deliver their offerings to customers in a way that is unique to customer needs, fulfilling, immediate, low effort, information personalized, and a service that they would recommend and purchase again. Customer Experience has emerged as a key strategy for companies to differentiate their products and services from close competitors by creating a customer centric world designed for each customer in their stage of the purchase process. Increasingly companies have come to discover that a great Customer Experience AND superior products and services are the way to achieve differentiation over their competitors.
What is key to leading Customer Experience efforts is instilling CX leadership principles inside the entire company to guide the company towards successful Customer Experience interactions and transformations. In no specific order, the five “P’s” or Customer Experience leadership.
Customer Experience passion is more than a “love” of your customers. CX passion is a never-ending quest to discover new insights on what customers want, create better experiences around what customers truly value, and enable new offerings that move customers from “sporadic” customers to “loyal” customers. CX passion is an entire company attitude that is never satisfied with what they are doing for customers today and is constantly exploring, testing, and evaluating more that they can do to create greater customer loyalty. The key measurement for a passionate company approach towards CX is a desire for customer loyalty. True customer loyalty is measured in the words of the customer, “your company is my choice,” as opposed to a customer satisfaction attitude where the customer expresses, “your company is one of my choices.” A passionate CX leadership style wants to build, grow, and maintain customer loyalty.
Too often, CX initiatives spark fear, concern, and worry within employees because they are told about CX initiatives instead of led and persuaded on the true power of CX initiatives to help the customers they interact with every day. I firmly believe that everywhere employees act today, that 99% of employees are acting with what they believe to be in the best actions of the company and the customer. The persuasion element of CX leadership believes that employee empowerment towards a greater focus on a consistent, meaningful, and powerful Customer Experience is best done with employees that are persuaded and not ordered to do the new initiatives. Persuasion is a leadership principle that is humble, respectful, and enabling of employees to use their experience, passion, and ideas to enable their own Customer Experience ideas towards a lasting CX program.
Another leadership hurdle with corporate CX initiatives is a belief that new CX initiatives will either fail, work perfectly or be ineffective to meet the customer need. If an organization: (1) believes in making the Customer Journey better, (2) believes in helping employees be a part of the solution, (3) believes in using data and experience to fairly evaluate all new ideas, and (4) believes in improving the offering to the customer before the competition does, then pilots and experiments are a must for developing and testing CX ideas before full scale implementation. Pilots are tests of critical customer problems that try new ideas to solve old or protracted problems. A pilot utilizes standard data collection, pre-defined success criteria, a standard implementation, and multiple iterations to fully try a new idea out on a small scale. If successful, then a larger pilot transforms into a larger pilot until full implementation occurs.
Customer Experience initiatives are often victims of too much analysis, discussion, surveys, and idea sessions than a central focus on performing better in key customer areas. The previous CX Leadership Principles of Passion, Persuasion, and Pilots need a guiding focus on consistently performing well in clear, understood, and repeatable processes for customers in their most important areas of concern. A Performance focus is critical to gain customer, employee, and senior leadership engagement and support. Customer Experience analysis and strategy are requirements, but they need to focus on performed actions that make the customer experience and customer journey easier, faster, less error prone, and more consistent. Performing a new process to solve a protracted customer problem will make all customers, employees, and senior leaders take notice.
Paradigm shifts are changes to long established ways of a company meeting customer needs. Paradigm changes of business operations are the most difficult for employees and customers to start however paradigm shifts contain the most customer benefits and are where the true results of improved CX operations lie for the company and its products / services. Passion, Persuasion, Pilots, and Performance lay the foundation by building trust, tests, improvements, and proof the CX changes will be successful both for the company and customers. Paradigm shifts taken without employee support and customer testing maybe amazing, but no one will trust the proposed paradigm shifts and they then stand a high chance of failure.
The Five “P’s” of Customer Experience Leadership: (1) Passion, (2) Persuasion, (3) Pilot, (4) Performance, and (5) Paradigm are the central leadership attributes to lead a CX transformation. A CX transformation that is driven with Passion for true customer success that Persuades customers and employees to lead with their ideas while using Pilots to ensure the tested ideas are implemented while aggressively enacting a direct-to-customer Performance solution of protracted problems will result in a Paradigm shift to a new operating model that is successful for customers, employees, and the business. CX success is a way to build sustainable competitive advantage in a business that in turn builds extreme levels of customer loyalty.